[Re-Post] Managing Conflict: Accepting Influence


Oh geesh. Looking back on these posts is really fun because I get to see where I was in my relationship at the time in relation to the SRH. Notoriously (says Gottman), men are the ones who often buck this piece of Managing Conflict, but it’s their ability to do so that influences how likely they will be to succeed in their relationship.

There is something incredibly therapeutic about hearing the words, “I can see why you might feel/think that way,” when you’re having a discussion with your partner. I never want to win, but I always want to be understood. Accepting Influence isn’t about admitting you were wrong, it’s about recognizing that your point of view is not the only valid point of view. That’s a big part of relationships and a huge part of being a decent human.


Aaaand we’re back.

If you’re just tuning in, I’m covering the basics of The Sound Relationship House, a relationship theory used in couples counseling by Dr. John Gottman. Some fun things I think you’d be interested in knowing about Gottman:

  • He used to be a computer programmer (kind of like this other awesome guy I know).
  • He and his wife, Julie Schwartz Gottman have a corgi they keep in their office at all times.
  • Based on his theory, he can predict the likelihood a couple will divorce ~94% of the time after observing them having an argument.

Kind of awesome, huh? Now, you get why I’m devoting so much of my time to breaking this stuff down. Managing conflict (“having a good argument”) can be the predictive factor in the health of a relationship.

Past posts about this theory include:

Building Love Maps
Fondness and Admiration
Turning Towards
The Positive Perspective
Manage Conflict

As we’ve discussed, the Managing Conflict part in a relationship is pretty essential. People argue. Couples have disagreements. The world keeps spinning. However, managing conflict brings you into the “second story” of your relationship. This is when you get past all of the stuff you’re wading through in the bottom floor of your relationship and begin to see those things that you see in Disney movies. There are songs, handholding, vows of everlasting love, and singing crabs with Jamaican accents.

OK, it’s not that delusional (Thanks Walt Disney for all those unrealistic expectations, I’m still waiting on my glass slipper and seven dwarves). But, BUT! It is pretty great because you start to see your partner as someone you genuinely like and can confide in. You stop arguing about the things that never change and you move into productive conversations that change the way you experience your life with your partner.

So, last we left off, we were discussing Softened Startup. Today, it’s Accepting Influence. I know you’re excited. Grab your popcorn, your Snow Caps, and your overpriced soda. It’s time for the show that never ends: relationships.

Accepting Influence is a lot like how it sounds.

When Gottman watched couples argue in his research, he found the couples who succeeded and thrived started their conversations gently. They didn’t bombard their partner with tears, screaming, passive aggressive manipulation, or puppies (although, that would be hard to resist). They also let their partner’s reasons for feeling a certain way (even if it’s different from their own) influence them. They don’t necessarily change their minds, but they do empathize. They do things like nod, say “I see where your coming from”, and they say “Ohhh, so that’s why you like the Seminoles? Well, I guess I can forgive you now.”

Really though, it’s not about completely changing how you feel, or more specifically, changing how your partner feels, because that’s just not likely to happen 100% of the time and generally, people get really resentful when they are constantly being told “Hey, I know what you’re saying and everything, but I’m not actually listening, I’m just waiting for my turn to talk and convince you that I’m right and your logic is infallible/wrong/stupid/preventing me from watching the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.”

Accepting Influence means listening to your partner and finding out WHY they feel the way they do and what, if anything, can be done to create a dialogue about the problem issue.

For example, I hate scary movies. HATE. Can’t watch them. They make me anxious and I go to sleep and have nightmares about zombies and serial killers. I spend all night hearing what are usually normal noises (fan whirring, cat meowing, fish swimming) and turning them into someone walking up my stairs, sharpening their knife, planning my demise, using my dishes and not washing them.

Jesse loves scary movies. He likes to watch them at night. He likes to watch them in the dark. Then, like a crazy person, he falls asleep. He just goes to bed. He sleeps like someone gave him a warm glass of milk and read him “Goodnight Moon” before bed. It’s okay to hate him if you’re like me and you think scary movies are the reason the U.S. is still at war and I don’t own a mini giraffe yet.

Now, we’ve talked about it and Jesse knows I can’t sleep, much less walk around without feeling like I’m going to accidentally punch my cat if he sneaks up on me and I assume he’s a robber or a zombie that was hiding under my bed and decided to swat at my legs with his fake cat furry paw to throw me off his brain-eating trail. But, it still majorly bugs Jesse that all movies that are deemed “scary” (I’m adverse to diet scary or scary-lite, too) are immediately eliminated on Netflix. He gets it though. I’ve explained my bad dreams, I’ve explained how scared and anxious I feel, I’ve explained that I know I am completely irrational with these fears, and he has listened and said “That’s completely unreasonable, but I want you to sleep. I will watch the movies on my own time.” Or something less profound, but still conveying the same meaning, which is “I hear you, I respect you, I want you happy. I will do my best to meet your needs.”

So, we watch a lot of brutal action movies, documentaries, and Kung-Fu. It’s not Disney movies or Bravo, but I get my sleep and Jesse gets his testosterone.

Any Questions?

What are some of the biggest moments of “Accepting Influence” you’ve experienced in your relationships?
How did it makes things better/worse?
Do you hate scary movies like me?
Are you honestly worried about a zombie apocalypse one day?

Author: Jennifer Bingaman Mazur

I like writing about what I think about what I think. I also like writing about what other people think and what I think about that. Yes? Yes.

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